Paul and I landed in the huge southern Vietnamese city of Saigon, officially known as Ho Chih Min, after a short flight from Siem Reap.  A hair-raising journey through mad traffic in a battered old taxi later and we got to our hotel, Saigon Star.

 

We freshened up ready to explore.  Our hotel faced a six-lane main road.  There were no pedestrian crossings.  No traffic lights.  And there was a constant, heavy stream of mopeds and bicycles, honking and beeping as the flowed past us.  We stood at the edge of the pavement waiting for a suitable gap in this river of motors.

 

After ten minutes Paul says – shall we try a little further down the road?

 

We walk along for some distance and find traffic lights.  But mopeds and cycles are still flowing through, unpredictably.  We wait again.

 

How does anyone cross the road here or get anywhere?  I said.

 

We stuck to our side of the road for a while, then managed to scoot across the traffic where there were some traffic lights which maybe 80% of the moped and cycle riders obeyed.  It was a mad, jerking dash across the road and raised the blood pressure a few points.  A cacophony of horns beeped as us.

 

 

I wondered how the hell we were ever going to get around the city.  Later, we watched with wonder as a man pushed a bicycle – just visible, peeping through a five foot high mountain of baskets, straw hats and boxes – into the road just as the traffic lights turned green and a thousand mopeds surged across.  He walked steadily, looking straight ahead, and like water around a boulder in a river, the mopeds parted and flowed around him.

This was a handy learning experience that served us well for the rest of our time in Vietnam.  It took some courage first time.

Here is the street-crossing method:

 

  1. Check that nothing is immediately heading your way nearest to the pavement where you are standing.
  2. Take a deep breath
  3. Step out into the road, even if you have 100 motorbikes surging towards you
  4. Do NOT look to your left, as this will only freak you out
  5. Carry on walking across the road, slowly, calmly, steadily
  6. Do NOT stop, hestitate, backtrrack or panic
  7. You will find the traffic flows around you and yourself safely on the other side of the road.

 I was euphoric the first time I managed this, and got quite a kick from it.  Learn this and you will get far in any Vietnamese town or city.

 

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